Ismail Matar recalled for UAE’s vital 2018 World Cup double-header

The Al Wahda forward, one of the most prolific forwards in the country’s history, is included in Mahdi Ali’s squad for the final two Group A fixtures in this second round of qualification, against Palestine and Saudi Arabia.

Ismail Matar has been recalled to the UAE national team for this month’s vital 2018 World Cup qualifier double-header.

The Al Wahda forward, one of the most prolific forwards in the country's history, is included in Mahdi Ali's squad for the final two Group A fixtures in this second round of qualification, against Palestine and Saudi Arabia.

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The matches, taking place at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on March 24 and 29 respectively, will determine which side tops the pool, with Saudi Arabia currently leading on 16 points. The UAE sit second, three points worse off.

The Emirates need to win both matches to stand any chance of progressing to the final qualifying stage as group winners. The eight group winners automatically advance, together with the four best runners-up.

Matar, 32, will bring a wealth of experience to the squad, having debuted for the senior national team in 2003. He was a key member of the Gulf Cup-winning side in 2007, scoring the winner in the final against Oman, but played a less significant role in the team that repeated the feat in Bahrain three years ago.

Typically, the 23-man squad features a large contingent from Al Ahli and Al Ain, the Arabian Gulf League’s top two clubs. They are represented by nine players and six players, respectively.

The majority of the group will convene on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, with the Al Ain and Al Jazira players to join on March 17 following their Asian Champions League commitments. The UAE play Bangladesh in a friendly the following day. ​

Mahdi Ali’s men last played in January, when they narrowly defeated Iceland 2-1 in a friendly. Their last competitive match was the 2-1 victory away to Malaysia on November 17.

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